Chelsea head up to Old Trafford for their opening day clash with Manchester United – a real baptism of fire for new Blues boss Frank Lampard, who will no doubt be under scrutiny during his first league game in the dugout.
The former Derby County boss has limited ability to tweak the team to his liking given the transfer ban placed upon the Stamford Bridge outfit, although given the extraordinary number of players who have returned from loans this summer, he still has plenty of options to choose from come August.
The task ahead for Lampard would have certainly been far easier had Eden Hazard not departed for Real Madrid – the Belgian was crucial to the Blues last term, chalking up 16 goals and 15 assists in the league – while Callum Hudson-Odoi’s injury means that Chelsea fans will still see the old guard, Willian and Pedro, next term.
Fortunately, the arrival of Christian Pulisic at least gives Lampard a bit more pace and invention on the wings, while the opportunity to work with Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, both of whom the Chelsea legend worked with at Pride Park last campaign, again is also exciting.
The London outfit might be unable to spend a penny in the transfer market this summer because of their ban but there is still scope for Lampard to spring some surprises on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United next month. Click through the gallery for our four potential XIs…
If the entire squad return fit bar Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Antonio Rudiger and Hudson-Odoi, all of whom are ruled out, this is how we think Lampard should set up his Chelsea side in order to get a result away at Old Trafford.
The Premier League’s highest-scoring midfielder used a number of formations during his time in charge of the Rams and the 3-1-4-2 best suits the personnel available to him at Stamford Bridge, most of whom remain from Antonio Conte’s time in the dugout, when a similar approach was preferred.
When fit, former Roma man Rudiger arguably walks into this defence and David Luiz should certainly give way once his teammate is match ready.
Forget the transfer ban, Chelsea’s most important deal has already been sealed this summer. See for yourself in the video below…
World-Cup-winner N’Golo Kante should be restored in his natural defensive midfield role having been deployed as an 8 throughout Maurizio Sarri’s tenure, while Mason Mount and Ross Barkley offer an attacking midfield pairing with plenty of creation and goalscoring threat.
Marcos Alonso, meanwhile, should be pleased at his restoration in a more advanced role having stagnated at left-back last season.
Tammy Abraham certainly deserves a shot given his goal scoring exploits on loan at Aston Villa last term, while new boy Pulisic can drift out wide from a central position in order to drive at defenders – he completed 2.1 dribbles per game in 2018/19.
Unlike his predecessors, Lampard will undoubtedly be keen to integrate youth talent into his setup this season. Last summer with Derby, the 41-year-old brought in new faces with an average age of just 23.
This should be music to the ears of the boatload of youngsters returning this summer with the hope that they can break into the first team at last.
In 19-year-old Juan Castillo, Lampard has a nice alternative to Alonso, who could lose his place in the starting XI if he cannot get back to his very best. The former Fiorentina man netted 13 league goals in his first two seasons in the Premier League, but managed just two last season, according to Transfermarkt.
Reece James was named Wigan’s player of the year last term and has attracted interest from Crystal Palace – he could be the perfect player to dominate the right-wing-back spot under Lampard, with Davide Zappacosta having struggled to nail it down previously.
Another staple of Lampard’s Derby tenure was the 4-1-4-1 and this suits the high-pressing system that he often utilised last term and could be used again to take the game to United on 11th August.
The aforementioned Alonso and James, who completed 1.1 and 1.6 key passes last campaign respectively, are far more attacking options than Emerson Palmieri and Cesar Azpilicueta, who completed 0.5 and 0.7 key passes respectively, according to WhoScored.
Barkley proved he has an eye for goal and a crucial pass back in October, when he netted three goals and chalked up three assists in three consecutive games. He seems the most natural replacement for Loftus-Cheek in this role, who cannot return to fitness soon enough.
Pulisic’s arrival means that former Shakhtar Donetsk man Willian switches to the left-wing, where he will have to compete with Pedro for a starting spot. The Brazilian will have to get back to form quickly, though, having found the net just once in the league since the end of October 2018, according to Transfermarkt.
If Lampard decides to approach the 2019/20 opener with caution and he may do given the pace and attacking threat at United’s disposal, then starting Spaniard Azpilicueta is an absolute must – the versatile defender completed a team-high 2.8 tackles per game last season and will be crucial to shutting down the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
A crucial change in midfield is Mateo Kovacic for Barkley – the Croatian completed 1.4 tackles whereas the former Everton man managed just 0.6, while he also completes more dribbles per game, successfully carrying the ball 1.3 times to Barkley’s 0.6, according to WhoScored.
The third centre-back is the key to the defensive solidity in this approach – the gaps in the defence are reduced when the play is switched, leaving less room for United’s runners to get in behind.